Reduce the environmental impact of linen service

photo Reduce the environmental impact of linen service


Linen service is one of the hotel activities with the greatest environmental impact. Laundry service can account for up to 30% of environmental impacts of the establishment (source: environmental information posted by tourist accommodation establishment) in terms of climate change, water and energy consumption, detergents and waste. Laundry service may be the most costly item for the establishment in environmental terms.
There are a number of ways to reduce these impacts: reduce the amount of linen to be washed by changing management procedures and raising customer awareness; attention to type of textiles used (grammage, dimensions, fabric, etc.); analyse internal and external impacts (equipment used, transport, etc.). Less laundry, more savings for the environment!


Changing room linens:

It is customary to change bath towels every day, and often bedsheets as well.
Hotel managers can address this use, on the assumption that in most cases towels can be reused, if not too soiled or wet, just as people use their bath towels more than once at home.

Hotels now let customers have towels changed only when they request it. Customers are invited to leave dirty towels on the floor or in the shower/bathtub if they want them to be changed. Establishment display this message in the bathroom, and this "code" is becoming familiar to hotel guests.
Each establishment, chain or association draws up its own message and display, but the content is roughly the same.
Some communication pointers should be followed to get customers to support the notion:
- clear and courteous message content
- notice displayed near clean towels in the bathroom

As with all information intended to raise awareness, the message must be accompanied with the appropriate conveniences to let customers follow the suggested practice:
 - Install hooks, towel bars and racks that are large enough to accommodate towels. If customers feel that there isn't space to dry their towels, they will not follow through on the scheme.
 - Install a laundry basket (preferably wood or wicker) so that linens do not need to be left on the floor; it is visually more agreeable to put soiled towels in a basket. In addition they will be not pick up excess dirt and water from the floor, and will be cleaner and lighter.

Replace linens with more environmentally friendly textiles:

Hotel linens have an average grammage (basis weight) of 300 to 550 g/m² for bath towels, and 200 to 400 g/m² for bed sheets. High grammage does not necessarily guarantee quality, but is generally associated with this notion. It may be profitable to reduce grammage.
For example: replace 70x140 cm bath towels weighing 400 g/m² (or 392 g for each towel) with towels with grammage of 350 g/m² (343 g per towel). For 20,000 towels a year, the lighter towels will generate 6,860 kg to be washed, compared to 7,840 kg for the heavier towels. Washing and drying cycles will be cut by 12.5% over the year, with resulting energy and water savings, for towels alone.

The same reasoning applies to dimensions, to reduce the weight of laundry loads.
For example, a 30x70 cm towel can be replace by one measuring 30x50 cm, without inconveniencing the customer.


 - contact your linens supplier or laundry service for information on available linens (dimensions, grammage, fabric type)
 - test different types of linens and analyse customer feedback
 - create information display for rooms
 - organise training for housekeeping staff
 - place information displays in rooms
 - make sure the practices are followed over time (one negative observation is that housekeeping staff do not always follow customer indications, and systematically change towels)


 - Near zero cost to implement, other than printing costs for information cards, and training time for housekeeping staff.
 - Anticipated savings from reducing linen grammage and dimensions
 - Replacing linens with ecocertified rental linens can have a cost premium of 10 to 20%.


Accor Group has chosen to combat deforestation. Accor hotels participate in the Plant for the Planet scheme, along the lines of carbon compensation programmes. In addition to asking customers to reuse their towels, the group pledges to devote 50% of the savings achieved to planting new trees. 5 reused towels = 1 tree planted.


 For in-house laundries or external services, reducing the amount of laundry has an impact of the number of washing and drying cycles.
 - Lower water consumption
 - Lower energy consumption
 - Less detergent used
Replacing linens with smaller and lower grammage articles:
 - Fewer washing and drying cycles (because linens are lighter) and associated benefits
 - Financial gains
Replacing linens with European Ecolabel certified items or organic cotton articles:
 This reduces greenhouse gas emissions associated with cotton manufacturing.


 - Regular training for housekeeping staff
 - Hard to find European Ecolabel certified linens or organic cotton linens at a reasonable price.